September 11, 2018
Once considered no more than the younger sibling of tradition marketing, digital marketing is an industry entirely of its own, with some estimates suggesting it will be a $120 billion industry in just the next few years. But this shouldn’t be a big surprise. The world is becoming more digital by the second, and this means there are even more opportunities for companies to digitally connect with their target audiences.
However, the majority of businesses either have no specific digital marketing plan in place, or they’re still treating digital marketing as separate from their overall marketing operation, according to a study from Smart Insights.
Yet most businesses recognize the need to adapt and focus more intently on the digital mediums available to them, but many just don’t know how to proceed. A major snag is in deciding whether to build an in-house digital marketing operation, or to seek help from outside firms. Most businesses would rather keep the operation in-house, but is this really the best move? Let’s look at the pros and cons of having an in-house digital marketing team.
There are many advantages to keeping your digital marketing strategy in-house, such as:
An in-house digital marketing operation is far easier to micromanage than an outside one. Most business leaders will cringe at the word “micromanage,” but there is a time and a place for it, such as when you roll out a new branding strategy, or test new types of content.
When things are done in-house, you can closely monitor them and tinker to make sure the end result is perfect. If you work with an outside firm, you might not see things until they are done, and rework costs more time and money that not everyone wants to spend.
Saving resources is a top priority for any business. By keeping things in-house, you will likely save yourself an expense. You can either expand the responsibilities of those already working in marketing, perhaps adding one or two more people to the staff, and this will often be cheaper than retaining a digital marketing agency.
If you’re just getting going with a digital marketing strategy, then doing things in-house is good for helping you learn more about the field. Then, later on, if and when you decide to bring in some outside help, you’ll be far more knowledgeable about what your company needs, allowing you to make full use of the firm and maximize the benefits of their services.
An Integrated Approach
The ideal scenario when working with digital marketing is to integrate it into your overall marketing plan. This is because digital mediums are so prevalent nowadays, they really shouldn’t be treated as something separate. Instead, you should focus on delivering a consistent message that reaches your various audience at many different touchpoints.
By keeping things in-house, it’s easier to do this. You may have to invest some time and resources in training employees how to make the most of the digital world, but then you can simply expand their focus to also include the digital realm. This makes it easier to develop an overarching marketing plan that’s cohesive and that incorporates all available channels in a consistent manner.
For all the benefits of keeping your digital marketing in-house, there are some downsides to doing this. The main disadvantages are:
Too Much to Handle
Digital marketing is growing rapidly, but traditional marketing still has a place. And as you would expect, digital marketing encompasses a lot of different activities, from social media and your blog to link building and paid advertisements
Asking your current marketing team to take on this responsibility on top of their current duties may stretch them too thin, which will cause all of their work to suffer. In these cases, keeping your digital marketing operation in-house can have a negative effect on the quality of work coming out of the marketing department, but it can also damage the workplace environment by putting people under too much stress.
Lack of Expertise
While the core principles of marketing still apply in a digital context, marketing online and in other digital formats really is a world unto its own. You may have an excellent team in place that does a wonderful job at generating leads and sales through traditional media, but this doesn’t mean they’re going to be great at digital marketing.
They may be able to learn it, but can you afford the growing pains? Producing digital content is expensive, and you want to see a return, so sometimes the best thing to do is accept the limitations of your in-house team.
Too Much Micromanaging
It’s true that control is a big advantage of keeping your digital marketing operation in-house, but this can easily become a downside. Driven by the desire to succeed in this all-important aspect of marketing, you may get sucked into something that has no end. Before you know it, you’re not paying attention to other aspects of the business, and now you’re worse off than you started. If you think this is a danger, then an outside firm may be the way to go.
When to Seek Outside Help?
There are times when it will become obvious you need outside help. Perhaps you just don’t have the people power to add digital marketing to your strategy, or perhaps your current team doesn’t have the right expertise. However, there are other times when you should consider going outside the business to bolster your digital marketing efforts, such as:
- Highly-targeted/highly-specific campaigns. As mentioned before, digital marketing includes many different things. If you decide you want to make an improvement in one specific area—for example, say you really want to improve Facebook engagement—then it might be a good idea to find some outside help. Many of the firms out there are highly-specialized, meaning they have the expertise needed to produce results you could never get on your own.
- A massive expansion is required. If keeping your digital marketing strategy in-house means dramatically expanding your marketing operation, then it might be smarter to seek outside help. The expense and headache of hiring multiple new employees will both likely be larger than if you just contracted another firm to help you improve your digital marketing operation.
The Ideal Scenario
While it’s important to decide whether or not you want to do digital marketing in-house or externally, the perfect scenario is really a mixture of the two. You’d ideally want to have people on your marketing team familiar with digital marketing so that you can develop a cohesive and effective marketing strategy for the entire business.
But to complement this, you’ll want to make use of highly-specialized firms who can help you succeed in specific areas of your plan. If you can achieve this type of collaboration, then your organization will be well-positioned to achieve all of its marketing goals in both the analog and digital worlds.
Jock Purtle is the founder of Digital Exits, on online brokerage service that specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He got into this work after many years as an internet entrepreneur. Throughout his career, he has run three different online companies, learning many valuable lessons along the way. He enjoys writing about his experiences to serve as a resource for other entrepreneurs.